I'm considering getting away from lead shot. Do you ever hunt turkeys with nontoxic shot? What loads do you recommend? Is this a concern of yours? — Andy
I use nontoxic shot almost exclusively nowadays for one simple reason: It performs better than lead. Modern tungsten blends— Hevi-Shot, Federal's Heavyweight, Winchester's X-Tended Range, Remington's Wingmaster HD and others — are denser than lead and carry more down-range energy. Combined with the correct choke, these tungsten-blend shotshells are more efficient killers.
You could write a book on what nontoxic loads to use. Basically, you want to use the load that patterns best with your gun and choke. To determine that, you'll have to put in some range time. Larger pellets typically perform better with somewhat looser chokes, and smaller pellets do well with tighter constrictions.
For a more complete rundown of nontoxic shotshells and great patterning advice, check out our upcoming 2012 Turkey Hunter's Equipment Guide, available on newsstands in early 2012.
One final note: The potential environmental effects of using lead shot for turkeys don't worry me. Waterfowl die-offs from lead poisoning occur when ducks or geese are concentrated in areas with extremely high lead-shot levels. Similarly high concentrations of shot and turkeys would likely never occur in the wild.